“Japan is certainly our most important partner in East Asia”

Building on excellent bilateral relations

Federal Minister for European and International Affairs Alexander Schallenberg


MAY 2022 Q&A / Text by Andrew Howitt / Photos by BMEIA / GRUBER

This year, Alexander Schallenberg marks 25 years with Austria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having joined the diplomatic service in 1997. He has held a number of positions throughout his career, including as spokesperson for the foreign minister, head of the Strategic Foreign Policy Planning Unit, head of the EU Coordination Section, and chancellor of Austria from October to December last year. Schallenberg served as federal minister for European and international affairs from June 2019 to October 2021, and he was appointed to the post again last December.

How would you describe the relationship between Austria and Japan?
The relations between Austria and Japan are characterised by a strong friendship. Japan is certainly our most important partner in East Asia, both economically and with regard to our common values. This is particularly important in a time when war and crises call for the closest cooperation between like-minded partners.

In what ways are Austria and Japan cooperating in the international community?
Both in multilateral fora and on the regional level, Austria and Japan work together very closely on issues such as disarmament, arms control, and climate change. In addition, both Austria, as a member of the European Union, and Japan consider a free and open Indo–Pacific as essential for the global economic and security order.

How has Austria been benefitting from the EU–Japan Economic Partnership Agreement?
The EU–Japan Economic Partnership Agreement constitutes an ambitious trade agreement and has already yielded impressive results. Austrian industries, especially the agricultural and lumber sectors, benefit from the tariff preferences set out in the agreement. Austria looks forward to sustained cooperation with Japan, including on reducing trade barriers for small and medium-sized enterprises and on sustainable energy.

What are your long-term hopes for Austria–Japan ties?
In 2019, Austria and Japan celebrated the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. For the future, I am confident that we will build on those excellent bilateral relations and further deepen our friendship. I am especially counting on increased people-to-people and expert-level contacts in the fields of business, tourism, academia, digitalisation, and many other areas.

What are Austria’s energy and climate goals?
Austria has set itself the ambitious goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2040. We have already successfully phased out coal power by shutting down the last coal-fired power plant in 2020.
Japan exhibits an impressive potential for renewable energy. In order to embrace this enormous opportunity, Austria stands ready to cooperate in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green tech — areas in which we believe we have something valuable to offer to our partners.

How have Austrian firms been involved in combatting the coronavirus?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, numerous Austrian companies have been involved in the fight against the coronavirus. This includes the production of facemasks and other personal protective medical equipment, the development of PCR-test kits, as well as the involvement in Covid-19 vaccine research.

How is Austria supporting Ukraine at this time?
Austria stands in full solidarity with Ukraine, which is currently the victim of unprovoked military aggression. It is therefore a matter of course that we support Ukraine — in particular, through comprehensive financial assistance. So far, Austria has contributed over €80 million in financial assistance for Ukrainians in Ukraine and those who have fled to neighbouring countries. •